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Knowing the Student

Consumers have become more demanding.  The definition of good service is different today than it was a few years ago.  The challenge for a small parochial school is to exceed current service expectations.

Large organizations can afford to buy data that provides them with insights about what each individual wants before the individual connects with the organization.  A small parochial school has limited data.  One alternative for a small school is to give every student what the average student, family, or parent wants or needs.

Parochial schools exist to solve important social problems that affect a limited number of people.  In addition, each student, parent, and family are unique.  The uniqueness may be minor but can be significant enough to diminish the perception of success if everyone is treated the same.

One solution is to change student intake.  Besides collecting the usual demographic information, the intake process needs to catalogue the meaningful ways each student, parent, and family are unique.  Some of the uniqueness is related to attitudes, life experiences, education, health history, etc.  Collecting the information is time consuming and can seem intrusive.  In addition, many parents have limited time.  Therefore, the data collection must be carefully designed to gather just what is needed in the shortest time possible without making anyone feel uncomfortable.

With better data, the students receive customized services and experience better outcomes.  The customized services also imply families will receive better advice and guidance.  Your school has the opportunity to evolve from the service provider of choice into being a trusted advisor

Being a trusted advisor provides your school with a competitive advantage.  It will be difficult for your competitors to match your advice since no one will know and understand your families as well as you do.

Next Step:

Develop a deep understanding of each family’s needs, wants, and preferences

Use what you know about each family to create a student experience that others will find difficult to duplicate

Use the stickiness of your relationship with each family as a success measure for your understanding of your families and your role as trusted advisor

When families have a source for good advice that fits their lives, needs, wants, and preferences, they are reluctant to lose touch with that source.  Attempting to develop the same type of relationship again takes time and has the risk of never quite reaching the same level.  Therefore, families often welcome an opportunity to sustain the initial relationship after graduation.

Developing a sustainable relationship with your families provides you with the opportunity to accurately track students’ post-graduation success.  As a result, you will have the statistics you need to demonstrate that your school is able to fulfill the promises of your mission statement.  It also provides you with an opportunity to cultivate the students’ interests in becoming a donor, volunteer, referral source, or advocate.  All of that plus the other advantages mentioned above will raise your school’s sustainability, the perception of the relevance of your mission, and the support from your community.

Your success and your students’ success will be enhanced by taking the time to truly know your families.

Take It Further:

Take the time to truly know your donors and become their trusted charity advisor and generosity coach

Take the time to truly know your volunteers

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